Updated: May 15
When designing our musical lives, there are many strategies we can deploy to help us reach our goals and make the most of our time. While our day-to-day routines understandably receive a lot of our attention in this regard, it’s also beneficial to use long-term productivity methods—like seasonality. By deliberately planning different musical seasons, we can choose how much work we do within a larger time frame, and what goals or projects we will focus on most.
Building seasonality into our life and work is a concept that writer and professor Cal Newport discusses often. It can be easy to succumb to the idea that we need to be as productive as possible every day, but this isn’t a particularly effective or sustainable way to live. Our work becomes more manageable when we aim to produce it over a longer time-scale, and when we organize our routines around our natural rhythms. As Cal explained on an episode of Tim Ferriss’ podcast: “You have…seasonality, up-and-down rhythms, which is a better fit for the human brain. You get rid of the sense of overload because if you want to produce a good book in the next two years, that’s a very different set of initiatives than ‘I want to do as many writerly related promotional things as possible this week.’” If we extend the deadlines for our various projects and goals, we can have seasons where we exert more effort, and others where we prioritize rest. We will still be able to finish important projects and reach important musical milestones, but without the exhaustion and burnout that accompanies constant hustling.
Different periods of time can also have specific musical themes. You can have seasons of several weeks, or even months, where you’re focused primarily on practicing, or where you’re zeroed in on a particular project—like an album. For many musicians, there will be seasons where touring and performing will take priority. Although we generally want to maintain a balance between all of our musical commitments, we don’t necessarily need to achieve this every single day, or even within a week. In many cases it’s better to focus on a smaller number of things and do them better, rather than spreading ourselves too thin and producing mediocre results. Everything we need to do to improve as musicians and to finish projects will still get our attention—it will just be on a longer time-scale. This will provide us with the breathing room and freedom needed to obsess over the quality of what we’re working on, while easing the pressure to do everything all at once.
Adding various levels of seasonality to our musical lives—in terms of how much we’re practicing, performing, or creating during a particular period of time, and what specific work we give our attention to—can help us achieve everything we want at a high level, and in a healthy and sustainable way.